The Walking Dead: season 7 episode 9 review – Rock the Road
The Walking Dead is back with an extended mid-season premiere. When we last saw the group they had an emotional reunion and it was evident that they’re ready to take on the world, or at least Negan and the Saviors. Rick has finally snapped out of complicity mode and he and the gang are ready to round up some willing troops and devise a strategy that will put them on the winning side. The problem is, not many people are willing and they don’t have any weapons. No thanks to Gabriel, who decided it was a good idea to take all of the food and what melee weapons they had and hide them in the middle of the night. Because of reasons…that aren’t quite clear. He left a cryptic note indicating that he’s taking them to the boat, but how he knows of it (perhaps he was the one watching them from the woods) and what his objective is remains to be seen. He doesn’t return and the group go looking for him later in the episode.
Things pick up right where they left off with the group at the Hilltop, and we find them rather unsuccessfully trying to convince Gregory to join their fight. Not only is he unwilling, but he would rather put the whole thing behind them and pretend they never met. Actor Xander Berkeley has really hit his stride with the Gregory here, and as much of an ass as the character is, I couldn’t help but be amused by his antics because he plays him so flawlessly. Needless to say the group are discouraged. That is until Enid waltzes in and tells them to follow here outside where she reveals that she’s convinced a dozen or so people to join them (Carl is mega impressed here). It’s a start, but it’s not nearly enough (not to mention they’re completely untrained). Not to worry, because Jesus announces that it’s time for them to meet King Ezekiel, who is sure to help.
Or not. He listens carefully and weighs the odds, but ultimately decides not to risk the lives of his people (who don’t know about their deal with the Saviors) since they currently have a peaceful arrangement with Negan. No thanks to Morgan, who maintains his perspective that it’s better not to kill if they don’t have to. Evidently the stakes aren’t high enough for the good King yet, and it will likely take the loss of someone close to him at the hands of Negan to motivate him. My money’s on Ben, who seems too pure for his own good and actually had some great development in this episode (we all know how that generally turns out). Richard is delighted to meet people with a similar mindset and tries to sway the king, but is unsuccessful. Ezekiel does however offer Daryl asylum, since the Saviors have never set foot in the Kingdom. Knowing it’s the safest option since the Saviors are undoubtedly looking for him, the group leave him behind. Daryl wasn’t given a choice in the matter and is left standing at the gate looking like an abandoned puppy. I almost felt bad for him until I remembered that I haven’t been emotionally invested in him since season three (who knows, maybe when he and Carol get reunited it will warm the cold dead part of my heart that TWD currently occupies). The group leaves in a disheartened state and head back toward Alexandria, hoping to arrive before the Savior’s turn up looking for Daryl.
On their way home they encounter a road block, presumably set up by the Saviors (which happens to be within view of their compound, interesting that it seems to be so close to Alexandria considering the groups didn’t know one another existed for ages, but whatever). They decide to move the cars and then place them back into position, hoping nobody will know they passed through. Their plan changes when they discover a steel cable loaded with explosives and rpg’s is part of the road block meant to inhibit herds of walkers from passing through. Deciding it would be useful in their fight, they resolve to take the explosives. Rosita proves her value by disarming them, and they attempt acquire the dynamite bundles as a herd closes in on them. Meanwhile they learn that Negan has discovered Daryl’s absence due to a walkie talkie that Jesus took from them. Time is of the essence in more ways than one, as they have to obtain the explosives before the walkers get to them and make it home ahead of Negan’s group.
Things get really hairy here as they’re determined to get everything useful they can despite that hoard of walkers is upon them. Per Ricks’ instructions, Sasha and Jesus head back to the Hilltop on foot to tell Maggie that they’re not giving up. The rest of the group make it back to their vehicle as it’s being surrounded by walkers. Rick and Michonne hotwire the vehicles attached to the cable and drive it through the hoard,literally cutting them in half, in what proves to be one of the most epic group versus zombie sequences we’ve had in ages, possibly of the entire series. For roughly 60 seconds I fell in love with the series all over again. The pair fight their way back to the vehicle and join the rest of the group, making it back to Alexandria mere seconds before Simon and some of the other Saviors arrive.
Simon and company quite literally turn the community upside down looking for Daryl, and The group manages to play dumb in regard to his disappearance and absence rather convincingly. During their search the Saviors discover the empty pantry, much to the surprise of Rick and company, who were unaware of Gabriel’s antics during the night. Simon proves to be a hilariously endearing villain yet again, props to Steven Ogg and his captivating performance as always. Given that he’s there for Daryl and not to collect a tribute, he tells them they ought to expand their search for goods before they return. He leaves empty handed but full of threats should it be discovered that they’re harboring Daryl. The group discovers Gabriel’s note about the boat and set out to look for him since he hasn’t returned.
They make it to the boat, but the priest is nowhere to be found. They track him to a nearby junkyard, however instead of finding Gabriel they’re surrounded by a large group of formidable young men and women and are held at gunpoint. Meet the garbage pail kids. Despite the circumstances, Rick can’t help but smile, like Krennic after being force-choked by Vader, because they’ve just discovered a large group of able bodied people with a ton of weapons. How convenient, let’s hope they’re on the same side.
All in all a little underwhelming, though not a bad installment by any means. Bear McCreary’s compositions are as wonderfully effective as ever. It felt as if there was more balance here than many of the previous episodes this season, which is certainly a welcome change. Delightfully this was not a bottle episode, and it looks as if the series may be shying away from that format going forward. Though I’m not overjoyed to have yet another group introduced at this point, hopefully they will be and interesting and valuable addition. Next week’s episode is titled “New Best Friends”…sounds too good to be true, but we shall see.
Image credits: AMC, FOX